The Occupy Wall Street Movement And Its Outcomes

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The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement defined the year of 2011 as a catalyst of political unrest and change. Thousands of passionate Americans marched across the country to express their dissatisfaction and distrust of the country’s big banks, corporations and politicians. With the rallies ultimately bringing nation-wide attention to the economic inequality and the interference that Wall Street had in federal government decisions.

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After the Financial Crisis of 2008 that drove the unemployment rate up by a staggering 5.2%, many blamed greedy banks and financial lenders for using predatory lending practices to deceive many middle and lower-income households into accepting unfair conditions that they didn’t need and/or couldn’t afford. Furthermore, with the creation of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) of 2008 (also crudely known as the ‘Bank Bailout’) in which the U.S government set aside $700 billion to restore liquidity in the economy, essentially relieving the bank of their immense debts and leaving ordinary households in the dust with little to no reimbursement for their losses that resulted from the GFC. This left citizens questioning why their federal taxes were being used to bail out the banks that they alleged had almost exclusively created the economic crash in the first place. The following year, WikiLeaks author Alexa O’Brien created the Occupy Together website (now not in use) and coined the now famous “we are the 99%” slogan. Over the span of three years the movement garnered massive momentum and soon activists had organised a march down Wall Street to demonstrate their displeasure with the current government administration and its inability to take action on the corporations that had directly lead the nation into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The slogan “We are the 99%” created by Alexa O’Brien became one of most famous parts of the OWS march in 2011.

Overall, the aims of the OWS Movement were to promote awareness of the true democratic rights that campaigners believed many average Americans lacked and to corporation’s greed and their influence over government. After the Financial Crisis, Campaigners argued the United States economy relied too heavily on the success of these immense, often multi-national businesses and recognised that these companies often used this as leverage to negotiate and interfere with politics. Therefore, creating a situation in which these companies really had much more power over government than the average voters and underpinning the supposed democratic values.

On the 17th of September 2011 over ten thousand passionate demonstrators marched down Wall Street, setting up an encampment in Zuccotti Park with up to two hundred activists sleeping under blankets on the grass, eating at nearby restaurants, taking advantage of the numerous free food tents on-site and using the bathrooms of neighbouring businesses. On the 15th of November. Mayor Bloomberg put out a notice asking the protesters to leave the park due to the now unhygienic conditions. Shortly after, armed riot officers arrived at the scene arresting more than three hundred reluctant campaigners with pepper spray purportedly being used. Overall the two-month long occupation was estimated to cost the NYCPD up to $17 million and by November, many New Yorkers were beginning to find that the movement lacked direction and was ultimately redundant.

Personally, I think the Occupy Wall Street protests were most definitely justified and bound to happen. The 2008 Financial Crisis occurred as a direct result of the big banks maximising profits and operating in complete disregard of their customers. However, the lack of true leadership and defined goals within the campaign resulted in the movement accomplishing little to nothing and dying out by the end of 2012. Leaving politics and corporate influence largely untouched. However, the protests will forever be memorialised through the streets of New York as a true act of working-class America exercising their democratic rights and standing up against capitalism and corporate greed. Occupy Wall Street demonstrators holding up signs and other media during the 17th of September march.

16 August 2021

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